Two men in white shirts (Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) have a conversation around a water cooler about mundane topics, like one of them dealing with a wife who’s gone over-the-top with baby-proofing the house. A minute later, five college students prepare to pile into an R.V. and head out for a weekend of fun at a remote lake house. There’s a genial jock named Curt (Chris Hemsworth), his sexy and recently bleached-blonde girlfriend Jules (Anna Hutchison), Curt’s pal Holden (Jesse Williams), quiet and bookish Dana (Kristen Connolly) and unapologetic stoner Marty (Fran Kranz).
And since that’s about all I can say, now we get to hang out together while I figure out how to kill 600 more words. Anyone have a favorite apple strudel recipe? Want to chat about whether Princess Kate is sporting a baby bump? Seriously, folks, I’m wide open for suggestions here.
Because if anything became clear when The Cabin in the Woods started getting early screenings and playing at film festivals, it was that the first rule of The Cabin in the Woods was you do not talk about The Cabin in the Woods, and the second rule of The Cabin in the Woods was YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT The Cabin in the Woods. It became something of a badge of honor not to move beyond the most cursory explaination of plot set-up, at the risk of spoiling the film’s unique sense of discovery. No one — at least no one who should be taken seriously as a film writer — wanted to be “that guy,” the a-hole who would spill torrents of spoiler diarrhea upon the world.
That’s a fairly remarkable phenomenon in a world of movie news where nothing is considered more important than being “firsties” in announcing everything remotely connected to an anticipated film —even if that means running with a story about James Cameron possibly directing another Alien movie that turned out to be an April Fool’s joke, like Deadline.com did, or reviewing a script for the upcoming Prometheus that turned out to be a fake, like Ain’t It Cool News geekmaster Harry Knowles did. Trailers and other coverage of contemporary new releases do everything but sit down and read the script to you like a parent with a bedtime story to make sure you know exactly what to expect, which makes folks like J. J. Abrams, who managed to keep the clamps on plot details for Cloverfield and Super 8 in recent years, seem like some kind of freak apostate of The Church of Marketing Savvy. Do these people not realize that audiences only want to see what you’ve already told them they’re going to see?
But that won’t happen, friends. At least not here. Director Drew Goddard (who co-wrote the script with his old Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer collaborator Joss Whedon, and wrote Cloverfield and Alias episodes for J. J. Abrams) has crafted something that pops with an utterly distinctive riff on horror film tropes, respectfully raising familiar characters and situations to the level of mythology without the smirking self-awareness of the Scream films. While it’s almost certain to appeal most strongly to serious film junkies — and horror buffs in particular — it’s terrifically funny virtually from start to finish, snapping off ferocious punch lines. When a movie manages to turn the appearance of its title on the screen into a brilliant joke, you know you’re in for something special.
I suppose one could safely comment (vaguely) about the performances by the wonderfully entertaining Whitford and Jenkins. It’s also possible to note that there is a five-minute stretch late in The Cabin in the Woods that is among the most ferociously, hilariously, gloriously awesome chunks of movie-love filmmaking you’ll ever see — and you’ll want to be paying close attention, or see it a second time, to absorb it all. And it’s perhaps also fair to note that Goddard and Whedon play pretty fast and loose with the “rules” of the world they’ve created in a way that may not hold up to close scrutiny.
But that kind of close scrutiny will have to wait until we’ve all seen it. Until then, do yourself a favor and go see The Cabin in the Woods. Then, when talking about it with friends who haven’t seen it … shhhhhh.